|Shine - with an 's' and an 'n'|
|Chime with a 'c'and an 'm'|
I felt pain on behalf of both Myracle and Billingsley when I read this story - goodness knows how bad they must feel. Thing is, you don't write books with awards in mind (well, I suppose some people may, but I don't and nor do most writers.) If and when the call comes that your book has been honoured, it's incredibly special. It's a lovely surprise, a bonus, a joy - but also a stressful experience, as you're suddenly part of a competition you hadn't expected.
Authors are not athletes, looking to stomp the opposition. We try and write the best book we can, for our own reasons. It's wonderful to win, it's less wonderful to come close. It's demoralising and disappointing to feel over-looked. But to think you're on a shortlist and then get taken off? To hear that your book has been mixed up with another one? That's an insult.
Awards for childrens' books aren't really about the authors. They exist to get children reading and reviewing, talking and thinking about what makes a good book. Some spark creativity (the Angus Book Award is a good example, with pupils creating book covers and films inspired by the shortlisted books). Others develop debating skills - the Lancashire Book of the Year judges even take over the council chamber for their deliberations.
The best awards make all the short and long-listed authors feel special and celebrated. They take care of the authors involved and remember that we are - well, some of us are - artists with delicate egos, not X Factor contestants. I've heard horror stories about awards which read out the books in descending order ('and in tenth place...') or tell the lucky winner beforehand, leaving the other shortlisters in anxious suspense.
It's not really that difficult to tell the difference between 'Shine' and 'Chime'. It's not really difficult to be sensitive, thoughtful and accurate. Lauren Myracle didn't deserve to be treated like this. Nor did Andy Mulligan when he got booted off the Blue Peter shortlist. I hope that the publicity boosted sales for both of them. And I hope it didn't spoil Frannie Billingsley's moment either. Perhaps they can combine to write about the experience. And call it 'Shame'.